Were you ever told to “try harder”? Probably like most of us somewhere along the way you heard that if you just applied yourself and tried harder you’d accomplish what you set out to do.
There is one thing I hear over and over from some of those who want to participate in our monthly Prayer & Contemplation gatherings, but don’t: “No matter how committed I am and how hard I try, my mind races, I’m antsy and I just can’t meditate.”
Welcome!!! That is exactly what happens when we sit in silence. We become aware of our obsessive thinking. Not only are we aware but we believe we have to stop it. We tell ourselves, “Just try harder. Everyone else seems to have a handle on this thing called meditation.” But the harder we TRY the more anxious we become and more rampant the thinking.
So there is a difference between the committed practice of meditation and the STATE of meditation. When I show up each morning to spend time in Centering Prayer (a form of meditation), all I am doing is following the invitation to start my day in quietude. As soon as I set the timer my mind immediately latches on to thoughts. When I notice that happening (and I don’t always notice) I think, “Hmmm, I am caught in my thoughts.” I can SEE that when I change or let go of my thought, it changes the direction of what I am feeling. Thoughts are slippery. They come and they go and it’s only when I begin to believe the thought, from whatever feeling or emotion is arising, that the thought itself has power. I end up giving the “thought” a life of its own.
I’ve come to realize that my PRACTICE of meditation is important to my spiritual journey because it is re-wiring my brain. It helps guide me toward a STATE OF MEDITATION, Where, if only for a brief moment, I have a deep Insight beyond where my personal mind could ever take me.
The State of Meditation can happen any time and anywhere. The Divine Mind (God/Christ/The Universe) of our existence is always, always within us and available.
Have you ever had a brief moment when you had such clarity, that you knew, without a shadow of a doubt, what you were supposed to do? That deeper state, we could call meditation. It was your personal thinking getting out of the way and in that “pause”, your Inner Guide led you.
Thomas Keating, who was one of the Founding Fathers of Centering Prayer, taught that an ongoing practice of Centering Prayer (meditation), would eventually lead to Contemplative Prayer (a state of meditation).
So TRYING? I’ve stopped trying. Now I just show up, trusting that my Centering Prayer practice will continue to bring me more often to a meditative state, free from trying so hard, and free from the thinking that has been the obstacle to my Truest Self.
I hope you are encouraged and know that you are not alone. We are always, always “beginners” on this spiritual journey. Hopefully, you will make your way to this month’s Prayer and Contemplation gathering, where together we can just "be". It won’t be the same without you!